Wisconsin – The Definition Of Grit
Wisconsin had its way with Northwestern in the Big Ten semifinal matchup today. The Badgers cruised to a 76 to 48 beat down. Northwestern struggled from the opening tip and never got any resemblance of offense going during the contest. Wisconsin out rebounded them 36-27, and shot 47% compared to the 35% of the Wildcats.
Leading the way for Wisconsin were its two post players Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. Ethan Happ continues to be super-efficient and productive. He is always in the right spot at the right time. Happ has elite footwork in the post and is much stronger than he appears. He continually is around the ball and comes up with 50/50 balls at a rate that I have never seen. Happ had 16 points on 4 of 6 shooting, while also hitting 8 of 11 at the foul line where he normally struggles. He chipped in eight rebounds and kept countless possessions alive with his hustle. Happ may not look like the most intimidating or impressive specimen but he is a natural basketball player. His smarts and court awareness are already at a high level. Senior forward Nigel Hayes had one of his most effective games of the season. He ended up with 18 points, ten rebounds and two assists. Hayes was working the mid-post game to perfection. Northwestern had no answer for him. He is an extremely physical player and if he can be consistent with his outside shot he has a good chance to succeed in the NBA. Hayes provides versatility with his size (6’8 240) that is a match-up nightmare at the collegiate level. He is stronger than some centers and also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create for himself or kick out to open teammates. While senior point guard Bronson Koenig struggled on the night the rest of the Badgers squad stepped up. Zak Showalter chipped in ten points and Vitto Brown tallied eight points and eight rebounds.
If Wisconsin can handle business tomorrow against a hot Michigan team it could be in line for a four or five seed in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin’s tough and gritty style of play is a tough matchup for any team, but a team that might stand a chance is a team with an up tempo style of play like Michigan. Tomorrow should be a solid game to decide who will win the 2017 Big Ten Tournament.